WASHINGTON — Ralph Friedgen soaked in the chants and fought back a few more tears. He gave a parting gift to his alma mater — the highest point total Maryland has posted in a bowl game — then followed it with a parting shot at the administration that fired him.
Already the ACC coach of the year and engineer of the second-biggest regular-season turnaround in the country, Friedgen ended his 10-year run with the Terrapins on Wednesday with a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.
"It's been real surreal," he said. "To be honest with you, I'm a little bit overwhelmed by it. I really had no idea that people even thought that much of me."
Patrolling the Maryland sideline one last time, holding his customary play sheet and wearing a white cap with the word "Terps" in red, Friedgen wound up a 9-4 season and a 75-50 Maryland decade that includes a 5-2 record in bowl games.
New Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson announced last week that Friedgen was being dismissed, effective after the bowl, with the school buying out the final year of the 63-year-old coach's contract for $2 million.
Friedgen said preparing for the game was like "a slow death." He found it hard to hold back his emotions and was concerned that his players wouldn't be focused.
He needn't have worried. Running back Da'Rel Scott (13 carries, 200 yards) spoke for teammates when he said they were determined to "make sure Coach Friedgen went out with a bang."
Then, his eyes dry for a moment, Friedgen fired back near the end of his news conference when asked: "How good is the Maryland coaching job?"
"I can tell you this: It's not an easy job," he answered. "There's a lot of things that really have to change to help it reach its potential. And, to be honest with you, I don't know if the university is willing to do that. … What happens to a lot of coaches who come to Maryland, they think it's like every other place, and after their third year they realize it isn't, and they're stuck."
The Washington Post reported that, as the game was going on, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach was being given a tour of Maryland's campus by school officials.
The Terrapins piled up 478 yards against the nation's worst defense and forced four turnovers. Scott had second-half touchdown runs of 61 and 91 yards on back-to-back offensive plays, and D.J. Adams had four short touchdown runs.
Dominique Davis was 35-of-57 for 268 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for East Carolina (6-7), which committed 15 penalties.
Shortly before kickoff, the Terps announced four players were declared academically ineligible: defensive lineman Drew Gloster, offensive lineman Pete White and receivers Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler. Also, receiver Torrey Smith said afterward he will enter the NFL draft.
TEXAS BOWL: Mikel Leshoure isn't sure whether he'll declare for the NFL draft or return to Illinois for his senior season.
But if this game is his college send-off it will certainly be remembered as a good one.
Leshoure ran for 184 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and set five school records as Illinois earned its first bowl win since 1999, beating Baylor 38-14. Both teams finished 7-6.
Leshoure had a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter, a 13-yard score in the third and another 5-yarder in the fourth. He broke school single-season records for rushing yards (1,697), scoring (122 points), total TDs (20), 100-yard rushing games (nine) and consecutive 100-yard games (five).
"First of all winning and … now that it's the end of the season and I found out I broke those records it feels good," he said. "I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of my teammates and coaches."
The Illini built a 24-0 lead and Leshoure's last touchdown put the game out of reach. Coach Ron Zook was told late in the game that Leshoure needed 23 yards to set the rushing record.
"All we had to do was tell the offensive line and (quarterback) Nathan (Scheelhaase) that … and they did the rest," said Zook, the former Florida coach who earned his first bowl victory.
LATE TUESDAY: Thanks to a fill-in freshman and a 72-yard interception return that seemed to cover 100 yards, Iowa upset No. 14 Missouri 27-24 at the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. Freshman Marcus Coker, a backup who had 403 yards and a touchdown in the regular season, helped the Hawkeyes (8-5) overcome a rash of injuries and suspensions against the Tigers (10-3). Coker replaced suspended starter Adam Robinson, and Micah Hyde scored the decisive touchdown on a meandering 72-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
MIAMI QB IN AIR: The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Miami QB Stephen Morris, a day after injuring his left ankle at practice, was "way better than we thought he would be," interim coach Jeff Stoutland said. Stoutland said the freshman told him that while his ankle was stiff, it had improved considerably. Still, Morris was held out of practice, UM's last in preparation for Friday's Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. Stoutland said he likely would announce today whether Morris or Jacory Harris would start.
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AUBURN: Quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley said they didn't submit their names to the NFL Collegiate Advisory Committee to evaluate their draft status. Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner, said, "I don't think we've got around to that" and he's not focusing on an NFL decision. Both players are juniors. Asked if he had made up his mind, Fairley, an All-American and the Lombardi Award winner, said, "I haven't even thought about it."
SMU: Coach June Jones, who coaches in today's Armed Forces Bowl, said he's staying and has no plans to leave for Maryland. Jones said he spoke by phone this week with a search firm but had no discussions with school officials from Maryland.